I’ve read many good books recently, but one is standing out from the rest of the pack by some distance — Scott Adlerberg’s Graveyard Love.
This intense, atmospheric noir has an innovative and daring premise that is developed with great poise and flair, marking the book out as a different beast to other dark thrillers out there.
Our narrator, unemployed 35-year-old Kurt Morgan, lives with his mother in her upstate New York home that overlooks a graveyard across the street. He becomes obsessed with an alluring red-haired woman who regularly visits the graveyard at dusk, watching her through a telescope in his room, wondering whose grave she visits like clockwork.
Kurt’s mother, meanwhile, is pressuring him to write her memoir, a project Kurt is disliking more and more with every passing day. Kurt starts following the red-haired woman and discovers she has a lover. A twisted game of paranoia develops between these four characters — Kurt, his mother, the graveyard woman, her lover — with each person pursuing their own twisted motivation at seemingly any cost. Kurt’s obsession turns out to be the strongest, and the most dangerous, as his resentment towards his mother — and his frustration at the cold encounters he has with the red-haired woman — intensifies.
Adlerberg cranks up the pace and tension here, propelling Kurt’s troubled mind into an irrational one as he falls deeper into the stalking vortex. We’re taken down a labyrinth of dark, claustrophobic, and unknown corridors as the author explores the far reaches of the human psyche. Forget the unreliable narrator, this is an insane one. We live with Kurt through every moment, from him approaching the lip of the whirlpool, to teetering over the edge, to falling right in. Disgusted and intrigued at his every move along the way.
The short length of the book (as taut novels tend to do) adds to the drama and imminent sense of danger, creating an unpredictable read amid a growing surge of menace as Kurt grows more unhinged.
Graveyard Love’s masterful breakdown of the warped mind of a main protagonist draws fair comparisons with Robert Bloch’s Psycho, Don DeLillo’s Libra, GBH by Ted Lewis, Marc Behm’s The Eye of the Beholder, and even the works of Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe.
I’d read one of Adlerberg’s books before, the zesty short story collection Dead Guy in the Bathtub, and this novel takes his writing to a new level. Dealing with voyeurism and obsession in such a riveting way, its uneasy, stealthy vibe creates a real sense of personality and represents one of the strongest manipulations of the first-person narrative I’ve come across.